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How to Stop Puppy Biting Fast

Puppy biting is one of the most common and frustrating puppy issues.

Although it is a totally natural process, many dog owners are a bit overwhelmed by their puppy’s behavior and often ask if heavy biting is already aggression.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The former is that puppy biting is normal, the second being that puppy biting is normal.

You probably have to sit this phase-out while you keep improving your bond with your dog and guide him to adulthood.

But sitting this out doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and watch him bite you or others.

There are some easy steps you can follow to make sure your dog learns the appropriate behavior.

Why Do Puppies Bite?

Mouthing, chewing, and biting are natural ways for puppies to explore, taste and experience their environment.

Everything they see gets into their mouth. This can escalate quickly when puppies eat stones.

There are three main reasons why puppies bite stuff and it almost never has to do with aggression (more on that below):

  1. Gathering information (texture and taste)
  2. Teething
  3. Play-biting (this is where they learn bite inhibition)

The sharp little teeth puppies have helps them learn a crucial lesson during the early socialization process.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

Puppies that spend 8 weeks with their mother and littermates are taught the so-called bite inhibition.

In this process, they will learn to adjust their biting behavior and the force they apply with their jaws to appropriate levels.

Puppies have tough skin so they are used to playing a bit rough with their brothers and sisters.

When they play with each other and biting becomes too rough one will start to yelp. This is a form of feedback they get and is essential for their development.

In order to receive feedback, they need those sharp teeth because their jaws are not strong enough yet. Through bite inhibition training they learn what to bite and how strong to bite.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

White puppy chewing on a toy.
Photo by Daniel Bendig

When you bring your new puppy home, you now have the responsibility to continue with the feedback the littermates and the mother gave.

Many trainers believe that you should just imitate the sound of a little puppy screaming from pain but I personally believe that you as a human can never fully imitate canine behavior.

Your puppy will probably just be confused, assuming you would be able to create a sound even close to a puppy yelping.

I’m laying out my personal method to handle puppy biting below. You will have to be patient and consistent with bite inhibition but it will pay off and your dog will be a well-adjusted canine citizen.

No Biting Tolerated

Petting your puppy almost always includes mouthing and biting. The goal here is to teach your puppy that nipping on human clothes and skin is not tolerated.

Now, let’s say you’re playing with your puppy and he starts biting too hard.

It is important not to pull your hands or clothes away as a reflex. Fast movements reinforce your dog to chase your hand and that will probably make it worse. Instead, you should:

  1. Leave your hand right there and say a clear “ouch” (in a yelping voice if you desire so) until your puppy stops biting.
  2. Praise him for letting go and continue playing or petting.
  3. If you have a rough play biter that won’t stop nipping on you, simply stand up and ignore your puppy for a few seconds or leave the room.

Time outs are a very effective way to stop puppy biting as young dogs love to interact and play with their owner.

If you suddenly stand up and leave the room after he bit you, he will definitely remember that. Once he is calm and gentle, you will enter the room again.

Redirecting

The goal of redirecting is teaching your puppy that mouthing on toys is okay but not on skin.

You should also teach him that clothes are a no go. When he starts play biting, engage with him in a game of tug to redirect his attention on the toy and not your hand.

If playing gets too rough, you will simply stop just like before. Another way to distract him from chewing is by teaching him the command “let go”.

This will bring structure into your game, teach him impulse control and stops undesired behavior.

If your puppy also goes for your ankles, redirecting him works just great.

When he starts biting your feet, stop right there in your movement and tell him a firm “no” or use the same yelping voice you used before.

Once he has stopped, grab his favorite toy and play with him as a reward.

Gentle Treats

We want to really teach him how he should interact with our hands while playing or petting.

For this method, you will grab a bunch of small treats and place them between your index finger and thumb.

When you start feeding them to your puppy you should pay attention to how he grabs them. If he bites too hard on your hand you will stop feeding him.

Leave them a bit longer between your fingers to see if he just tries to lick them out of your hand or if he uses his teeth.

Getting Rid of Excess Energy

If all of these tips don’t seem to work it is probably because your puppy is not exercised enough.

I am not only talking about going for walks but also a lack of mental stimulation that can encourage biting behavior.

You should also consider attending puppy classes which are very important for his socialization.

Puppies are the best teachers when it comes to play-biting and yours will love the play and interaction.

I have visited puppy classes since my dog was 9 weeks old and we still go to play classes twice a week.

There is nothing better for a dog than playing with other dogs in a safe and controlled environment (not like the dog park).

Puppy Teething

Like babies, puppies lose their teeth and that’s why their gums can be irritated and itchy.

Providing your puppy with safe chew toys is the key to relieving that urge. I personally use the Kong for Puppies and the Nylabone Chew Toy.

High energy dog breeds are more likely to chew, so getting that energy out in the morning and throughout the day is mandatory.

Puppy-proof your home, so he won’t chew on cords or an expensive rug or swallow harming things.

Things to Avoid

There are certain situations where you set yourself up for failure in regards to puppy biting:

  • Avoid fiddling your hands in your dog’s face or grabbing his head between your hands for fun. This will only encourage him to bite.
  • As I said before, avoid quick movements or pulling your hands away when he mouths on them.
  • Do not play too rough with your puppy. This could potentially damage his little teeth and will encourage rough playing.
  • We do not want to discourage the puppy to play at all. It is your responsibility to show him how to play in a gentle manner.
  • Do not lose your patience and yell at him. Raising your voice does no good.
  • Never hit or kick your puppy for biting you. He is not showing dominance or aggression towards you and physical punishment will make him afraid of you which might cause real biting.

Puppy Keeps Biting Kids

If your puppy keeps nipping your kids, you should teach your pup bite inhibition in addition to teaching your child how to stay calm and redirect your puppy.

Biting is totally normal and so is the instinctive reaction of kids to pull away.

However, it’s important to teach both how to treat each other and to get your kid involved in the dog training in order to make sure that your dog listens to everybody.

When Play Biting Becomes Serious

Play and puppy biting is perfectly normal in most cases and doesn’t mean that your dog is showing any signs of aggression at all.

You just have to observe your dog’s body language as well as his vocalization to cross aggression out of your list.

When your pup is play-biting, he looks really clumsy with a relaxed body posture and no determination to harm you at all. It occurs when playing or petting the head, for example.

Early signs of aggression that mostly occurs in adulthood (hopefully never with the right training) can include your puppy biting significantly stronger than usual.

His body is tense and he shows you his teeth and growls at you but beware of the difference between play-growling vs. threatening growling.

If this happens during a normal play session and he doesn’t experience any pain or something else that might have startled him, you might have a problem.

Just to rule out any medical issues, you should visit a vet and get your dog checked out regardless.

If you then try your yelping sound, it will only encourage his aggressive behavior.

Instead, do not show any emotions and do not back up from your puppy because that is showing him that you are afraid and fearful which is prey behavior.

If you can, you should firmly hold him still without hurting him until he has calmed down.

After that, you should consult a professional to specify the problem and to avoid any further aggression.

My Rottweiler chewed and mouthed for maybe a couple of weeks and then simply stopped after we calmly showed her what to bite and what not to bite.

She’s around 2 years old now and biting was never a problem. Even during the most intense play session, she’s still so mindful and will never catch your arm or even finger by accident.

Let me know in the comments what helped you to get rid of puppy biting.

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Margarita Valdez

Thursday 22nd of April 2021

HI DANIELLE,

I RECENTLY GOT MYSELF AN ENGLISH BULLDOG, HE IS THE SWEETEST THING BUT HIS NIBBLING HAS BECOME A BIT OVERWHELMING HE IS 3MONTHS GOING INTO 4MONTHS ON MAY. HE CAN BE PLAYING WITH HIS TOYS AND IF WE GO BY HIM HE GOES FROM THE TOY TO OUR SHOES OR PANTS, HE IS A VERY TOUGH PLAYER MOSTLY BECAUSE ALL DOGS IN MY NEIGHBERHOOD ARE LARGE DOGS EX:GERMEN SHEPS, MALONOIS,GREAT DANES. WE HAVE TRIED THE NO, PUTTING HIM IN HIS CRATE WALKING AWAY(AND HE IS RUNNING AFTER US) HOW CAN I GET HIM TO UNDERSTAND BITTING IS NOT OK OR ARE THESE SIGNS OF AGGRESSION?

Danielle

Friday 23rd of April 2021

Hey Margarita, this kind of puppy biting is totally normal for a 3/4 month old pup and I wouldn't worry about aggression unless it's full-on attacks (real aggression in puppies is extremely rare).

When people say they've tried the no, crate, walking away, etc. it's often not the way it's intended to be used. A clear no, removing the pup and not starting any chase or game is a very clear signal to your puppy that it's not okay and he'll understand. If you just started doing this, it might take some time to see the effect.

If he's used to playing with large dogs, observe his body language. Is he often pinned to the floor, getting run over, trying to hide, etc.? My Rottie puppy was quite tough but a 3m old pup can't keep up (mentally or physically) with large dogs if they're not holding themselves back. Try finding pups of the same age and similar breed to avoid that your dog learns to overcompensate for strong players. Really depends on the type of play tough. It might just contribute to a harsh play/puppy biting style overall.

Cheers, Danielle

Lorraine

Monday 4th of January 2021

Danielle

My 9 week cockapoo is biting a lot. It goes from nice mouthing and then can get very bitey. I’ve tried saying “ouch” which stops him for a millisecond and then he attacks again before I’ve had a chance to praise him. I’ve tried to leave the room but he just runs after me and squeezes out the door with me!! It’s difficult to push him back and close the door at the same time. Any tips?

Danielle

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

Hi Lorraine, that's most probably very normal behavior, considering your pup's just 9 weeks old. The best thing to do here is to calmly block the dog with your body and close the door. Your dog's not supposed to get out and initiate a game of chase or finding toys or whatnot so it's really important to stay consistent. The more work you put in now, the sooner the biting will stop.

Just make sure there's nothing around in the room that your pup could destroy. And even though we're often tempted to use the crate since it's easy to restrict your dog to the crate - I wouldn't do that as it would only create negative associations with the crate.

Cheers, Danielle

Minerva

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

My Rottie puppy likes to bite but I still can't seem to have her stop. She does it when we try to pet her. And loves to bite our ankles. I'm going to try that method of leaving the room. I was told ignoring her also would work. I tried the yelping and it seems to be working a little. I'm gonna need alot of practice on everything. And she's only 8 or 9 weeks old. And on a puppy that small how much exercise does she need daily? Thank you, Minerva with my Rottie puppy Mercedes.

Danielle

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Hi Minerva, no worries it's totally normal that your young pup does that but it's important to keep in mind that she'll easily weigh 80-100 pounds as an adult dog. Rotties are absolutely awesome but some owners say they're quite fierce with their puppy biting, my Rottie was relatively easy-going when it comes to the biting but it always depends on the individual :).

When you leave the room you're essentially ignoring her. It's important to be clear and consistent. These two things are key. When you leave the room every time she bites, she'll inevitably connect that with the biting and stop because she wants to keep playing.

No fiddling around with the arms because at that point, it's just a game of chase to the dog. Of course, no physical punishments or anything and clear communication includes stating what you want in a way the dog understands it (too many people start talking in monologues and are then confused why pooch isn't picking up).

I have other articles on important topics like leash training, socialization, separation anxiety, proper puppy exercise etc.

Re: Exercise. Your dog doesn't really need long walks yet, mental stimulation, play, and exposing her to the outdoors environment (socialization) is much more important. The rule of thumb is walking for 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day. Personally, I walked my pup longer but it's important to keep in mind that the Rottie is very prone to hip problems.

You can do this :). Danielle

Ash

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Hi my 9 mnth old GSD pup is very keen and gets into biting mode when we are playing. My 10 yr old son is afraid of him due to nonstop biting! I have done everything that you have suggested but no change. What should I do? He does growl as well when we say no to him and looks like get into a challenge mode. What should I do? Please help.

Danielle

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

Hey Ash, I totally understand your situation and I'm doing my best to give advice but it's hard with limited information. What's important is how long you have your GSD pup. Was he with you since he's around 8 weeks? If so, puppy biting should've stopped quite some time ago with proper training. Or is he a rescue you got recently? Even adult rescue dogs don't have bite inhibition most of the time.

Whether you got him as a 8-week-old pup or as rescue at 8 months, how long did you try these steps for? Teaching your dog takes some time and even though you have your pup since he's 8 weeks, if you didn't start training on this it'll take time. Similarly, if he's just with you since one month, it might just take a little bit longer to get that out of his system.

When we encounter problems like that it's important to take a step back and gain perspective. Did you establish a great way to communicate with your dog? Are there any other issues (strong pulling, resource guarding, bad recall, etc. etc.)? In this case, the biting would just be the tip of the iceberg and the mentioned tips could not work due to a lack of structure, clarity, and consistency in your pup's overall life.

How exactly does it go down when you try the steps? Let's say your pup is biting and you yell "Ouch!", "No!" or whatever once or twice without getting overly angry or frustrated. Does he stop? If he doesn't stop, are you just getting up without any fuss. No chasing your arms or whatnot. Does he follow you? If so, have you tried to restrict his space? Space is so important for dogs and learning that he's not allowed to go after your arms, ankles or whatever will be far easier.

Getting your son onboard with the training is very important but first you have to teach your dog and then your son how to act appropriately. You say the dog's puppy biting you too but with kids, it's even harder. They tend not to be so clear for dogs, scream, run away, etc. in which case the dog will have a hard time understanding what's really asked of him and see it as play instead.

Cheers, Danielle

John

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Hello, I have a pup that likes to show his affection with (what he considers) gentle nibbles along with licking and excitement. It’s not play bitting or aggressive, just nibbles of affection. I know he doesn’t mean any harm, but his little teeth are sharp. How should we discourage the nibbling? Would you recommend saying a clear “ouch” (in a yelping voice if you desire so) until the puppy stops? I don’t want him thinking that it’s not allowed to show affection. Thanks!

Danielle

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Hi John,

I'd always differentiate between real nibbling (=grooming) and nibbling that actually breaks skin or when your pup's going after you even though you pull away. You can read up more about love bites & nibbling here.

Even with regular play biting, the puppies almost never mean any harm and yet they do harm if they don't learn bite inhibition by the time they're an adult. It always depends on what you're comfortable with (keep in mind that he might treat strangers the same way, then it should definitely be discouraged). If you're not fine with it, yelling "ouch" will most probably do the trick, along with time-outs if necessary.

My 100lbs adult Rottie nibbles on occassion but it's super softly and only with us, so I'm totally fine with that.

Cheers, Danielle